sFlow vs. NetFlow

December 7, 2007 by Stephen Brown

Many magazines and vendors discuss taking advantage of the performance information provided by NetFlow, but fewer cover the benefits of sFlow. sFlow has been relegated to the status of the little brother that seldom seen or heard. In other cases, the two are positioned as competitive technologies, almost like a royal rumble of sFlow vs. NetFlow.

Coming from the Observer world, I think, “why can’t we all just get along?” And, actually through the Observer analyzer, both of these poll technologies do get along.

Finally, today in Network World I found an article that gives equal airtime to sFlow and NetFlow, and it speaks in great detail about the functionality and benefits of sFlow. It’s worth a read.

“But, while NetFlow is a software based technology, sFlow uses a dedicated chip that is built into the hardware. This approach removes the load from the router or switch’s CPU and memory. Originally developed by InMon Corporation, sFlow products have been available since 2002.”

Also worth a read is an article appearing in Enterprise Networks and Servers:

“Despite the sample architecture of sFlow, this technology is still incredibly useful and provides fantastic insight for the network administrator who feels he/she is flying blind on the details of the traffic on the network.”

sFlow and NetFlow are both technologies that are running on most networks, when purchasing an analyzer be sure that it supports both. If you have an analyzer that supports flow technologies, we have a great white paper explaining how to use them in network and application analysis.

Other sFlow Resources
sFlow.org - Multi-vendor forum supporting sFlow
InMon - Original developer of sFlow
Wikipedia - Explanation of sFlow
NetworkWorld - sFlow: more technical details